The Ford Mansion and Museum are two parts of the Morristown National Historic Park. The mansion and museum are in two separate buildings near each other.
The Visitor Center is the place to start one’s tour. One will find a bookstore/gift shop, restrooms, the museum displays, and the National Parks Passport Cancellation Station here. This is where to get a ticket for the Ford Mansion tour.
The 45-minute tour of the Ford Mansion gives a view into the lives of the family of a prosperous businessman on the eve of and during the American Revolution.
The house and its history were very interesting. The ranger was very knowledgeable.
The Ford Mansion is a classic 18th-century American home built by Jacob Ford, Jr. in 1774. It has a Georgian style exterior, but the kitchen and framing show a Dutch influence.
The mansion features a Palladian window above the front door. The elegant architecture was not created to look appealing, but to impress visitors by showcasing the Ford family wealth.
The first floor of the house was built with symmetrical rooms on both sides of the foyer. The office is across from the library. The parlor is across from the dining room.
On the second floor there are symmetrical bedrooms on each side of the hallway.
The servants’ section of the house is near the kitchen and the pantry on the east side.
The grand hall and the parlor are what categorized the house as a mansion. They are large and opulently appointed.
Unlike most mansions at the time, the Ford Mansion did not use the Georgian-style characteristic bricks for the exterior, but rather painted flush board and clapboards.
This mansion was George Washington’s HQ at Morristown from December 1779 to June 1780. Washington had very fashionable lodgings during his stay here. The house was only 5 years old when he took up residence.
George Washington and his Continental Army had to set up an encampment in Morristown because of transportation problems. Washington liked Morristown because it had “defensible terrain, important communication routes, and access to critical resources." Those critical resources would be helpful to Washington’s Army. They included items from the Ford family’s businesses---iron mines, iron forges, a gristmill, a hemp mill, and a gunpowder mill. All were near the house.
Washington’s army was stationed at Jockey Hollow while Washington stayed here. Jockey Hollow, another section of this national park, is about five miles south.
Colonel Jacob Ford Jr. was a patriot. He was a commander of the Morris County Militia. Ford died from pneumonia on January 11, 1777 in the mansion house. Before his death, Ford and his soldiers captured a bronze, six pounder field cannon from the British Army on January 3, 1777 at the victory in Princeton, NJ. With artillery and arms in short supply, the victory at Princeton not only boosted the morale of the Continental Army, but it increased its scant arsenal of weapons.
After Ford’s death, his wife Theodosia Ford took ownership of the mansion. With her husband and father-in-law dead, Mrs. Ford held the family together and kept the farm and family business a profitable endeavor.
Prior to Washington’s arrival, the house was considered a "great human tragedy for the Ford family" because in 1777, the house was rented to an overabundance of Continental Army troops that developed smallpox.
When Washington arrived he asked permission from the widow if he could stay in the mansion and paid her rent. General Washington, Martha Washington, five aides-de-camp, and 18 servants moved into the mansion. Theodosia Ford occupied two of the four upstairs bedrooms and reserved the kitchen for her own personal use. She had four children---a daughter and three sons.
When Washington arrived at Ford mansion in December 1779, the mansion was one of the biggest houses in town. The location was strategic for Washington because the American capital was in Philadelphia, and the British Army capital was in Manhattan. Morristown was located between the two. This allowed Washington to keep a close eye on the British and enabled him to send letters successfully to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia as there were no British troops along the route.
During his stay at the Ford Mansion, Washington wrote many letters to the Continental Congress explaining the deplorable conditions that his troops were living in. His place of work for such activity was in the private study. It was a meaningful experience to be in the room and to see the desk where his historic letters were written.
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